“We have no king but Caesar,” – John 19:15
These are the words that were spoken by Jewish religious leaders as they took Jesus from Pilate to be crucified. Jesus was the promised king. Their belief system taught of a king that would come and setup a kingdom that would last forever. Jesus was that promised king, and the leaders of that belief system and the people of that promise were the ones who put Him to death. They were the ones that hailed Caesar of Rome as king as they put their king to death.
Have our Christian leaders today gone so far to say that the leaders of our world are so great that they would place the kingdom of Jesus and how it functions on the back burner to see political agendas play out in their favor?
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
We all see the cute “Not of this World” bumper stickers and shirts that come from this passage, but this is way deeper than many of us seek to understand. Jesus’s kingdom is not from this world… but it is for this world!
In verse 36, “If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.” we see Jesus say that His kingdom functions in a way that is not like the kingdoms of this world.
6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” 7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
This would be blasphemy and was worthy of death according to Jewish law, but it didn’t stop there.
12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
No longer was it just a Jewish blasphemy problem… it was a Roman treason problem. Let me say this another way.
Jesus wasn’t put to death just because He claimed to be God. Jesus was put to death, because He was claiming to be king and by this claim he stood in opposition to Caesar.
It was a clashing of two political systems, two kingdoms, and two kings!
Son of God
Savior of the world
Prince of peace
These titles were all attributed to Caesar of Rome, but were meant for none other than Jesus the true king.
In the first century, to declare Jesus as Lord was not just a prayer to get into heaven when you died. To declare Jesus as Lord was to say that Caesar was not and this was a dangerous thing for you and your family.
I think that we often times don’t understand why Christians were persecuted in the first century. Do you think that it was because they primarily taught a message of going to heaven when you died? No! There were so many belief systems already that taught about an afterlife. The idea of a heaven or afterlife already existed and wasn’t a problem. The main reason why Christians were put to death was that Jesus was their king and not Caesar. They refused to put Caesar in a spot that was meant for Jesus.
Do we allow Him to be Lord now or is he primarily set aside for our afterlife, separating Him from being king and the one whose political system (His kingdom) that we truly seek to live for?
As followers of Jesus, we are citizens of this kingdom that Jesus was put to death for being the leader of. Would we be willing to deal with the effects of our king Jesus’s way that is often opposing the way of the Caesars in our world, or do we find ourselves and our religious leaders compromising the ways of Jesus to be on our worldly Caesars’ good side?
Do the kingdoms of our world take equal or greater value to the kingdom of Jesus? I have spent a lot of time in the midwest. I lived in Nebraska for a year, and I also have toured playing music all over. It is common when driving by a church to see an American flag flying above the Christian flag.
Sometime the symptoms of Caesar worship can be blatant, but other times it can be hidden in a strange mix of celebrating our worldly kingdoms in a way that crosses with our religion.
Worldly kingdoms will come and go, but the Kingdom of Jesus will last forever!
Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not!
The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
– George Frideric Handel – The Messiah – Hallelujah Chorus